Mar 27, 2009

Be Happy :o)

This entry is inspired by a Bottom Line/Personal interview with Scott Hamilton.

How do you be happy when you have every reason not to be? I will let you research Scott's background and learn about what an amazing man he is. For this entry, some tidbits on how to be positive, even when things are rotten around you.

1. Consider all problems temporary
2. Don't face problems alone
3. Find strength in challenges
4. Don't delay difficult conversations
5. Sell your smile...even to yourself
6. Fight for change.

I think these are wise considerations and worth of some thought and contemplation. I know that I absolutely try and embody several of these principles :o)

Mar 25, 2009

Science Scene - Bombproof Wallpaper

This entry was inspired by a brief article in the April 2009 Popular Science Magazine.

Franklin, MA - Berry Plastics Corporation, the industry's leading manufacturer of flexible films and tapes, has introduced X-FLEX Blast Protection System, an innovative, peel-and-stick solution that is designed specifically to absorb energy and mitigate debris hazards during a significant blast event.

Developed through a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) between the Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) of the US Army Corp of Engineers and Engineered Protective Systems of Berry Plastics Corporation, this new stretch-and-catch system uses the technology of elastomeric material to retrofit walls and greatly enhance the ability to mitigate secondary debris hazards associated with blast loads.

U.S. Troops might soon be protecting their bunks with these bombproof sheets of peel-and-stick plastic. These sheets are a composite tape made from polyurethane reinforced with aramid, a heat-resistant fiber used in body armor. Soldiers simply slap the 1/5 inch thick adhesive sheets to their walls, rendering them able to withstand shrapnel and small explosions.

Mar 23, 2009

Refueling Outage Blues :o)

As you are reading this, I have officially commenced my refueling outage duties. This entails reporting to the Outage Command Center each morning at 5:30 A.M. for turnover, and then putting in a twelve hour shift. That, along with the one hour commute each way, six days a week, makes for a long week. So if I am not around reading and commenting for the next five weeks, please understand.

For some of my Blogger readers, who did not see some of my nuclear power entires over in AOL J-Land, the rest of this entry describes what a nuclear power plan refueling outage is all about.

What you are looking at in this picture is a fuel assembly being removed from the reactor. The fuel is removed from the reactor using all remote handling equipment completely under water due to the extreme high radiation levels of the fuel. Water is a very effective shield source of radiation. The characteristic blue glow is Cerenkov radiation - attributed to radioactive particles moving faster than the speed of light in water. With time the blue glow diminishes.

The fuel is picked up by a manipulator crane that has a mechanical arm that extends down into the reactor vessel. The round structure you see with all of the little round holes in it is actually the reactor vessel flange. The top of the reactor and all of the control rods have already been removed in these pictures to allow access to the fuel. The arm of the manipulator crane has a fuel assembly attached to it. The fuel assembly is approximately 17" X 17" square and about 12 feet long. There are 193 fuel assemblies inside the reactor. All fuel assemblies are removed from the reactor and transferred underwater into the spent fuel pool which is in another building. Approximately 1/3 of the fuel is replaced each refueling outage.

To put things in perspective the crane is about 40 feet above the top of the reactor vessel and the water level is 23 feet deep to the top of the reactor vessel flange. The fuel sits about 20 feet below the reactor vessel flange (so the technician's are about 60 feet above the top of the fuel as it sits inside the reactor).

There is enough low enriched uranium in the fuel to allow operation for 18 months. New fuel is not radioactive until it is placed in the reactor and activated via neutron bombardment, which causes the uranium atoms inside the fuel to become unstable, splitting millions of times per second (fission) and releasing energy in the form of heat, and subsequently this heat is transferred to a secondary water source to produce steam, and this steam then spins the turbines and attached generator to produce electricity.

Mar 21, 2009

Happy Spring :o)

In the Northern Hemisphere spring officially begins at 7:44 a.m. ET on Friday, March 20, 2009—the vernal equinox, or spring equinox.

But don't be fooled by the old rumor that on the vernal equinox the length of day is exactly equal to the length of night.

The true days of day-night equality always fall before the vernal equinox and after the autumnal, or fall, equinox, according to Geoff Chester, a public affairs specialist with the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. "Exactly when it happens depends on where you are located on the surface of the Earth," he said. By the time the center of the sun passes over the Equator—the official definition of equinox—the day will be slightly longer than the night everywhere on Earth. The difference is a matter of geometry, atmosphere, and language.

To see a video on the Vernal Equinox, click here.

Today, while the weather does not quite feel like spring, it is a darn sight better than the freezing temperatures of winter. The next four or five days are expected to be in the fifties and low sixties.

Not much going on, while we do have a few errands to run, mostly just trying to relax. In the next several days I will be posting about our upcoming refueling outage, which will make me scarce for the next five or six weeks (6-12.5 hour days per week, plus hour commute each way makes for a tired man, and this all starts at 3:00 A.M. Monday :o(

Mar 19, 2009

I recently came across this saying, and I must say, it tickled my funny bone :o)
Life is like a dog-sled team. If you aren't the lead dog, the scenery never changes. - Lewis Grizzard

Mar 18, 2009

Literal Thinking

Sometimes, it amazes me how literal people can be, and sometimes, I love to tweak others by taking a literal interpretation of their words. Do you ever tease others by literally interpreting what they have said? This question was inspired by an e-mail I received from a friend, reproduced below:

This is a true story, proving how fascinating the mind of a six year old is.

They think so logically.

A teacher was reading the story of the Three Little Pigs to her class. She came to the part of the story where first pig was trying to gather the building Materials for his home.

She read. 'And so the pig went up to the man with the Wheelbarrow full of straw and said: 'Pardon me sir, but may I have some of that Straw to build my house?'

The teacher paused then asked the class: 'And what do you think the man said?'

One little boy raised his hand and said very matter-of-factly ...

'I think the Man would have said - 'Well, I'll be damned!! A talking pig!'

The teacher had to leave the room.

Mar 17, 2009

Happy St. Paddies Day :o)

Since I am happily taken, I will not ask you to kiss me, but I am always open to a free cool amber beverage :o)

Hope you are having a splendid day and a great week.

Mar 16, 2009

Believe It Or Not :o)

My jaw was hanging low as I read this article in yesterday's paper. Then, as I was making this entry, I just could not help snickering, the image of kids and parents chasing their cats in this open area, kittens climbing the nets, hissing and bottled-brush tails, screeching, kneading, slashing, and preening. I mean, I love my cat and all, and can even understand cat shows (sort of, I mean, its a cat, they hate everything :o), but this is over the top in my book. Below are excerpts, let me know what you think.

Frolicking felines and knavish kittens will have their day in the spotlight when the International Cat Agility Tournament and show takes place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 21 and 22 at Century Center, 120 S. St. Joseph St., South Bend.

The event is open to cats of all ages and varieties and they don’t need prior agility-course experience, according to Susan Lee, an agility official with International Cat Agility Tournaments Inc.“We set up the cat agility tournament course in the middle of the cat show and cats who have entered in the show can use the course between judging. Some cats will stretch and yawn and some will just play around. Some cats are so excited to go on the course and quickly learn they’re on a course.”

The track is much like one used for horses, but on a smaller scale, says Lee who, as an official trainer, believes that cats are very smart and more like horses.

“Cat agility people are looking at what horses would do (when designing the course) ... and some have worked with dogs and horses.” Lee adds that folks are welcome to use the track, when it’s open, to get in some practice runs. An official will be on hand to record times. The best course times can then used for the competition. The top three cats from the agility competition will be awarded cash prizes and their times will be recorded into the international competition books. The top three kittens and top three junior handlers (through age 17) are also honored.

Families are welcome. “Kids and cats can run around the course while competing,” Lee says.

The event, for cats of all ages and abilities, is sponsored by Cat Agility Tournaments Inc. and Great Lakes Area Cat Enthusiasts Inc.

Mar 15, 2009

Sunday Silliness - Demotivation

Sometimes the best solution to morale problems is just to fire all of the unhappy people.

Mar 14, 2009

Science Scene - Biomass going to the Woodshed

When discussing renewable energy, you’re likely to hear a lot about wind, solar, geothermal and hydropower. You're likely to see the conversation turn to nuclear power (not renewable, by the way, but also does not produce greenhouse gases) before anyone mentions one of our oldest and humblest renewable sources of energy – wood.

But the good old American log – the energy provider of choice in the United States before coal became king in the 1880s – could make a comeback as the hottest renewable around.

According to an article in Science,
from researchers at The Nature Conservancy, Duke University, Resource Professionals Group, USDA and the and the Austrian Chamber of Agriculture, advanced wood combustion (AWC) facilities could help the United States
Reduce our dependence on foreign oil, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and create jobs.

What we need is a more localized energy system that provides power to communities from within the community over short distances. This can work through AWC, the authors say, because the systems release minimal amounts of sulfur oxides, mercury and other pollutants. It turns out wood is much cleaner than coal. Modern AWC facilities – common in Europe – also approach 90 percent thermal efficiency.

AWC provides lower emissions through efficiency — efficiency in burning and transmission. Because the energy does not have to travel as far, you get more bang for the log. AWC also takes advantage of CO2 that’s already in the system, recirculation CO2 already in the biosphere’s carbon cycle. Fossil fuels, on the other hand, introduce more CO2 into the system when they are burned.

If communities get smart about AWC, they’ll have to build new facilities and reconfigure transmission lines – both of which would create jobs. There will also be new employment and training opportunities for electricians, steamfitters and plumbers (not to mention foresters) to ensure that this new source of power does not diminish our forests.

Forest management
is the key to making AWC work. Fuel for these plants must come from sustainably managed forests. This is not only essential for the ecosystem, it’s also essential for the AWC plant – it’s useless without a sustainable supply of wood to feed it.

But the wood does not need to come from forests alone. The researchers point out that the United States produces 30 million tons of combustible urban wood a year from storms and construction site debris. That material is often thrown in a landfill, but could be used to produce energy for urban areas.

Mar 13, 2009

March Madness, Wildcat Style :o)

This entry is a Public Service Announcement for Frank and Wildcat. Click the picture or the link in the text. Add Wildcat to your follower list, you will not be disappointed :o)

The fun on the infamous Ides of March (that's March 15th, for those not up on their Latin and "Julius Caesar") when the teams selected to compete in the tournament will be announced.

From there, you'll get to watch the drama play out within the Wildcat's Lair as we find out just who's bracket will be the ultimate winner.Since things can change daily with these bracket battles, don't be surprised if I post a few extra episodes along with the regularly scheduled ones for Wildcat Wednesdays and Frank Fridays.

I'll also post some updates on the score in-between each round of the Tournament. The previous Bracket Battle in the Lair in 2007 included four brackets between me, Frank, Hip and Uncle Kerouac. I won that year's battle, but the odds of winning will be even tougher this year with as many as six brackets in play.

Mar 12, 2009

Airline Identification Changes

If you are John T. Smith or Katherine A. Jones on your driver’s license and listed as Johnny Smith or Kathy Jones on your airline frequent flyer program(s), you could miss out on upgrade opportunities or other perks later this year.

New rules for pre-screening passengers will require the name on your booking information, including your frequent flyer programs, to match your government-issued ID. "Long story short, the name you registered in your frequent flyer program has to match the name on the document used to verify your identity at the airport -- usually a driver’s license or passport."

“It is the employee’s responsibility to ensure all documents match.” The change is happening because the Department of Homeland Security, in its "Final Rule on Secure Flight," is shifting pre-departure terrorist watch list matching responsibilities from individual airlines to the Transportation Safety Administration. The frequent flyer rule, along with others, will be phased in through the second half of the year.

Here are two examples to illustrate the change:

An American Airlines frequent flyer for 14 years has booked reservations under R. David Baker. His ID reads Robert David Baker and his frequent flyer account reads Robert Baker. American advised him to either change his reservation name to match his frequent flyer account in order to receive miles and upgrades, or he must change his frequent flyer account to match his reservation name. Ultimately, his government ID name will trump either process.

A traveler’s Continental OnePass account is listed as “Shawn,” but his ID and passport is listed as “Shaun.” In 10 years, he has never had a problem until he went to check-in for international flight. “On the surface, it would seem easy to change the name on your frequent flyer account to match your government-issued ID, but each airline has a different procedure for name changes,” Huffman said. “Some allow a letter to be faxed, some will do it by phone and some require documentation to be sent via email only.”

To prevent problems, frequent flyers should start the process now. Attached are links to most major airline website name change information pages or phone numbers if they do not have online information:

American Continental Delta (see “Name and Address Changes)
Northwest: call 1-800-447-3757
Southwest: call 1-800-445-5764

Mar 10, 2009

There is concern recently about the Autorun feature using CD-ROM's on your computer.

What is Auto Run, Auto Play? When an Autorun-enabled CD-ROM is inserted into a CD-ROM drive, Windows automatically launches the program contained on the disk, whether you want it to or not.

Due to increasing threats from the Conficker-Downadup Worm and other malware, US-CERT strongly recommends that Autorun/Autoplay be disabled on all computers.

Mar 9, 2009

What the Stimulus Means for You :o)

So, what are we going to get for $800 Billion, and is there a chance that us average citizens will see anything? Below are the details that we can expect:

A bigger paycheck: Starting in April, you can expect to see a little bit more in your paycheck, and income tax reduction of $400 for individuals and $800 for couples. Assuming this is for the whole year, it should be $50 to $60 per month.

A bonus for retirees: If you collect social security, look for a $250 check this summer.

Relief from the AMT: A $500 increase in the alternative minimum tax (AMT) exemption for individuals, to $46,700, and a $1000 increase for couples, up to $70,950.

A tax break on new wheels: If you buy a new car, light truck, motorcycle or motor home this year and spend up to $49,500, you can deduct state and local sales taxes (average is 6%). Individuals who make less than $125,000 and families making less than $250,000 qualify.

An incentive for home buyers: A tax credit of up to $8,000 for first-time buyers has been extended through November. If you buy in 2009, you will not have to pay the credit back. For all homeowners, the cap on credits for energy-efficiency improvements, such as new windows or insulation, has been raised from $500 to $1,500.

A break on college tuition: A beefed-up Hope (now American Opportunity) credit will max out at $2,500, up from $1,800. Qualifying income limits rise to $80,000 for singles and $160,000 for couples. Does your college student need a PC? You can use money in your 529 account to buy one - or Internet access - this year or next.

Lifeboats for the laid-off: Those who remain on their former employer's health-insurance plan will get a 65% subsidy for up to nine months. The first $2,400 in unemployment -insurance benefits this year will be tax-exempt.

Mar 8, 2009

Economic Depression - Are we there???

A Depression doesn't have to be Great — bread lines, rampant unemployment, a wipe-out in the stock market.

The economy can sink into a milder depression, the kind spelled with a lower-cased "d."

By one definition, it's a downturn of three years or more with a 10 percent drop in economic output and unemployment above 10 percent. The current downturn doesn't qualify yet: 15 months old and 7.6 percent unemployment. But both unemployment and the 6.2 percent contraction for late last year could easily worsen.

By one definition, it's a downturn of three years or more with a 10 percent drop in economic output and unemployment above 10 percent. The current downturn doesn't qualify yet: 15 months old and 7.6 percent unemployment.

But both unemployment and the 6.2 percent contraction for late last year could easily worsen. The Great Depression retains the heavyweight crown. Unemployment peaked at more than 25 percent. From 1929 to 1933, the economy shrank 27 percent. The stock market lost 90 percent of its value from boom to bust. And while last year in the stock market was the worst since 1931, the Dow Jones industrials would have to fall about 5,000 more points to approach what happened in the Depression.

Despite the tempered optimism, the economic outlook remains grim. Consumer confidence has fallen off the table, stocks are at 12-year lows, layoffs come by the tens of thousands, and credit remains tight. The current downturn has many of the 1930s characteristics, including being primed by big stock market and real estate booms that turned to busts. Policymakers and economists note there are safeguards in place that weren't there in the 1930s: deposit insurance, unemployment insurance and an ability by the government to hurl trillions of dollars at the problem, even if it means printing money.

Sunday Silliness - Delusions :o)

There is no greater joy than soaring high on the wings of your dreams, except maybe the joy of watching a dreamer who has nowhere to land but in the ocean of reality.

Mar 5, 2009

Stock Broker Hell :o)

For the first eight years with my current company, I was at our local headquarters location (25 minute drive vs. 45 minute drive to plant). Lately, I have been spending more time in the office that I still maintain there.

So today, while at my desk, the phone rings from an outside number.... I innocently answer, and #*$^& if it is not a stock broker looking to score. After I politely explained that I have an online stock account, and that we are soon going to help my Mom move to be near us, and after he mentioned that he was just a good ole Jewish boy, I stated that I am not interested in buying Bank Of America stock at the moment.

His angry response was "Is it because I am Jewish". I bruised my chin as my jaw dropped and bounced several times off of my desk. I calmly replied that there was no reason to be "rude", and he replied that he was not being rude, just being "real".

I guess the trends we are reading about recently where customer is King does not apply to the battered and tattered investment community. So, good riddance you sleaze ball.

Mar 3, 2009

Strategic Thinking Days :o)

The past few days have been very refreshing, a win-win type of thing.

First, I have had to only go to our design offices the last two days, eliminating 40 miles round trip. That is the first "win".

Second, a team of five of us have spent numerous hours on developing our long range and strategic planning input process. Basically, figuring out how our processes need to be modified to "feed" the beast.

The part that is the second "win" is that we have spent more than six hours in the past two days focusing on the process and how we do things better to come up with a 5-10 year plan for our station. It is very refreshing and, in a sense, inspirational.

So, my wish to you is that you have the time to think about your future, and spend the appropriate amount of time to actually plan for it :o)

Mar 2, 2009

2010 Budget Breakdown

The charts below outline the budget breakdown for the 10 year budget proposal from President Obama. I have to admit that looking at the charts below, I think we are biting off more than we can chew. The increase in spending does not seem to be the proper thing to be doing now. I hope that as these proposals are examined and evaluated, that we trim some of the proposed increases and have the discipline to avoid, and eliminate, earmarks.

Mar 1, 2009

Sunday Silliness - Defeat :o)

For every winner, there are dozens of losers. Odds are you're one of them.